Design For Life: The Nature of Nature

Creating healthy buildings is dependent on recognizing our fundamental connection with the natural world.


| September/October 2008



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Creating healthy buildings is dependent on recognizing our fundamental connection with the natural world.


Where is nature? If you listen to urban or suburban dwellers, nature is “out there,” typically at least an hour away—a place to get away. Country dwellers often say how glad they are to live “in nature.” It’s as if there’s a line on some map, delineating “in nature” from “not in nature.” Really?

Even in the heart of the city, the sun shines, the rain falls, plants grow, birds fly and the sun rises and sets. Wherever we are, our hearts beat, our blood flows, our lungs expand and contract, and a gazillion other bodily functions work without our thinking about it. We are never apart from nature.

What is nature?

For the last few decades I’ve been looking up “nature” in dictionaries. Until recently, the definitions have included “how things work,” “the essential character of a person or thing,” and “the physical world.” Only lately has “countryside” appeared. And nowhere have I found nature defined as “rocks, trees, streams and birds, unchanged by humans,” which is what most of us mean when we talk about “getting out in nature.”

As a culture, we have a sloppy idea of what nature is and how we fit into it—and that is at the heart of our ecological problems. The fact is, we are nature, but most governments and businesses function as if we’re separate, creating deadly consequences for life on earth. All of our efforts to save forests, clean up air and water and reverse climate change are just flapping our hands at the symptoms; the root cause of these problems is that we don’t understand how nature works.

Come back to life





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